Monday, August 11, 2014

How Gay Are We: The Cleveland Fury Debuts as a LGBT-Friendly Soccer Team

It had been 10 years since Ted Rosati had laced up his cleats for anything close to a formal competitive soccer game, but that never meant he stopped loving the sport. With the Gay Games coming to Cleveland, Rosati realized his hometown didn't have a LGBT-friendly soccer team. So he created the Cleveland Fury to compete in the games. After months of practices at Cleveland's Michael J. Zone Recreation Center, the Cleveland Fury debuted in two matches today at the Copley Road Soccer Fields in Akron. "I am looking forward to the games," says Rosati. "I've got a lot of pent up soccer in me."

Young Start: "I grew up playing it, since I was 5 years old," says Rosati. "My dad played for CSU and ingrained it in my and my sisters."Rosati played soccer competitively through high school, but stopped in college, hitting the field only recreationally.

Masking His Identity: "Not many people came out in high school," Rosati says. "I wasn't even out at the time." It was common in the sports culture at his high school to act a certain way: tough, aggressive, competitive. "If they're [a player of] the more sensitive type, they're labeled very negatively," he says. "Those are things I've heard and definitely pushed me deeper into the closet."

 Field Work: Starting a new job at MetroHealth helped Rosati reconnect with soccer through pickup games — and get involved with Cleveland's LGBT community. "I never really embraced gay culture, to be honest," says Rosati. "I joined the gay-straight alliance at work, and two months later the people leading it asked me to be the chairperson." It was through that role that Rosati learned about the Gay Games. "They [MetroHealth] gave $25,000 to the Gay Games for scholarships," he says, referring to awards that would help selected athletes pay for expenses such as entry fees.

Team Effort: "Even though there's a lot to handle, it's been great," says Rosati, on creating Cleveland's first LGBT-friendly soccer team for the game."We're being ambassadors to the sport." Over half of his team's  18 players are LGBT, so for once, he's in the majority. "Being with these guys ... they embrace the culture," he says. "It's the first time I feel like I could be myself. I don't have to hold back anything."

Update 8/13: So far, the Cleveland Fury has went 4-0 in the Gay Games soccer competition. The team kicks off its next game at 10 a.m. Thursday against the San Francisco Spikes.

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